If the buyer is a first time owner, they will rely more heavily on the seller during the transition time. They are new to owning a business and servicing the clients. This is their lifeblood and revenue stream so they want to make sure they get it right. They may require the seller to personally introduce them to definitely the larger business clients, possibly even all of the individual tax clients as well. A lot of this will depend on the buyer’s skill level, experience, confidence and overall size and breakdown of the practice. We have seen first time buyers write letters and personally follow-up with a phone call or meeting at the office to make more of a formal introduction. Overall, the more you assist the buyer in transitioning the clients to the new buyer, the happier you, your clients and the new buyer will be.
You do not want to just toss the buyer the keys, move to a warmer climate and tell them good luck. This can be a recipe for disaster. If your buyer is an established firm, they typically will require less of the seller’s time during the transition phase. They are familiar with the day to day operations of running a CPA practice and understand how to best service the clientele. Established firms will likely have their own agenda for how much involvement they want the seller to maintain during the transition.
Overall, the more flexible you can be with respect to the transition and helping the buyer(s) adapt, the more successful everyone will be. It is best to have a clear understanding of your role and what is expected from you during the transition before you close. Most of these issues and discussions between the buyer and seller can be hashed out during the buyer’s due diligence where the buyer is able to get a better understanding of the overall practice workload and the current client expectations.